... in a hundred seconds
The Carnival of Genealogy CIX is up at The Catholic Gene!
Charles Homans, "War Games: A Short History," Foreign Policy, Sept/Oct, tracks seven millenia of war games.
Linda Colley reviews Kwasi Kwarteng's Ghosts of Empire: Britain's Legacies in the Modern World for the Guardian, 2 September. Rana Mitter reviews Julia Lovell's The Opium War: Drugs, Dreams and the Making of China for the Guardian, 2 September.
Adrian Vermeule, "Lawfare from the Bench," The Book, 5 September, reviews Brian McGinty's The Body of John Merryman: Abraham Lincoln and the Suspension of Habeas Corpus.
Mark Lewis, "The Union Martyr," WSJ, 3 September, reviews William M. Adler's new biography of Joe Hill, The Man Who Never Died.
Roger Lewis reviews Anne Sebba's That Woman: the Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor for the Telegraph, 2 September.
Daniel Byman, "Deterring Enemies in a Shaken World," NYT, 4 September, reviews Eric Schmitt's and Thom Shanker's Counterstrike: The Untold Story of America's Secret Campaign Against Al Qaeda.
I'm gearing up a new book project on African global perspectives during the era of the Cold War. Today I've been looking into the exchange of musical forms between West Africa and the wider Atlantic World. And, well... it's just been EASY. I mean, really easy, to do the basic research. Between JSTOR and Amazon, I've downloaded a couple of dozen articles and have a dozen or so books on the way. Even with being lazy and buying the books (instead of getting them via interlibrary loan), it is costing me less than a one-day expedition to the nearest well stocked African Studies library. I'm glad that I've been at this business long enough to have undertaken research in the era of printed bibliographies and card catalogs, just so I know how good I've got it now. I've noticed this dynamic before, mind you, but today it just hit home extra hard. The sort of things I'm looking up are not terribly well researched, but they are yielding to my boolean logic with minimal effort. And I like it that way. It makes it so much easier to be a productive scholar AND help my four-year-old daughter produce her own book on fairies at the same time.
So, sorry, Card Catalog. Your polished wood was beautiful... the worn edges of your cards had a certain tattered charm... but as a research tool, you left much to be desired.
Simon Jenkins, "English history: why we need to understand 1066 and all that," Guardian, 1 September, tackles Richard J. Evans's essay, "The Wonderfulness of Us," LRB, 17 March.
Blake Gopnik's "7 Must-See Fall Art Shows," Daily Beast, 3 September, is actually 8 "must-see shows". If only one, my choice would be: "Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan," an exhibit at London's National Gallery. A. S. Byatt, "Richard Dadd: the fairy king," Guardian, 2 September, reviews Nicholas Tromans's new biography, Richard Dadd: The Artist and the Asylum.
Judith Warner, "Was Coco Chanel a Nazi Agent?" NYT, 2 September, reviews Hal Vaughan's Sleeping with the Enemy: Coco Chanel's Secret War. Richard Evans, "The Mistakes," The Book, 1 September, reviews Zara Steiner's The Triumph of the Dark: European International History 1933-1939.
Kathryn Schulz, "Errol Morris Looks for the Truth in Photography," NYT, 1 September, reviews Errol Morris's Believing is Seeing: Observations on the Mysteries of Photography. In a slide show, "They Were There: 9/11 Photographers," Life, September, photographers of that day reflect on their experience.
Jacob Silverman reviews Manan Ahmed's Where the Wild Frontiers Are: Pakistan and the American Imagination for The National, 2 September. Manan's book will be officially launched in New York on 26 September and we're all invited!
In a brief filed with the federal district court in Boston on August 31 (see below), a new party joined the legal conflict between Boston College and the Department of Justice. The new player sharply changed the tone and substance of the exchange, noting the political nature of the underlying investigation and directly accusing the DOJ of serious professional failures. Two and half months ago, in back-to-back posts at Cliopatria, I wrote that the DOJ was engaged in misfeasance, but that they were rounding the corner toward malfeasance. Now someone has placed a version of that argument before the court, and the results suggest the presence of an internal conflict at BC.
I'll skip most of the background -- see the two links above for that -- but at least some of the recent background is necessary to make sense of the new developments. Since the DOJ (twice) subpoenaed oral history materials archived at BC that relate to the Troubles in Northern Ireland, the university's responses have been distinctly limited and polite, arguing in broad terms for academic freedom but not attacking the purpose of the DOJ's request. But woven in with their restrained and businesslike tone, BC's responses have also had an interesting subtext. As I discussed here last week, a recent brief from BC's lawyer suggested that it would be difficult for the university to respond to subpoenas broadly demanding all oral history materials in their Belfast Project collection that provide information on the murder of Jean McConville, because they would have to go through all the interviews and figure out what's in them, and they would have no idea where to even begin.
Remember that the Belfast Project wasn't directly undertaken by BC faculty. Instead, the interviews in the project were overseen by a longtime journalist, Ed Moloney, and conducted by former members of loyalist and republican paramilitaries in Northern Ireland; interviews with Provisional IRA members were conducted by Anthony McIntyre, a former PIRA member who earned a PhD in history at Queens University Belfast.
So now police in Northern Ireland are seeking oral history material compiled for a project sponsored by an American university but carried out by outsiders, and the American university is signaling that oh yeah, we don't actually know what any of that stuff says. While BC wages a careful and modest courtroom effort without a corresponding political or public relations campaign, the university is also coughing and winking at the court and the DOJ to distance itself from -- well, basically from itself. Boston College is not dug in for war to the knife; they are politely suggesting that the subpoenas be quashed, and claiming no knowledge of the material at stake.
Now. Suddenly, someone has walked into the courtroom without having been summoned there: Moloney and McIntyre, the journalist who oversaw the project and the outside historian who conducted the IRA interviews. Asking leave to intervene in a case that centers on their work product but doesn't formally involve them, Moloney and McIntyre have made an infinitely more aggressive and direct set of arguments than anything BC has managed.
First, the lawyer for the Belfast Project participants argues that the subpoenas in question are meant to serve an inherently political investigation, opening political matters that have had a political settlement. The subpoenas rip open a closed matter, the brief argues, since "the subject matter of the U.K. government’s request involves a politically-related offense committed prior to the Good Friday Agreement."
This claim is the foundation for an insistence that the Belfast Project interviewers had good cause to promise confidentiality to their subjects: "In the execution of this duty, the Intervenors were, and are, entitled to rely on solemn assurances from the Government of the United Kingdom to the United States that politically-related offenses preceding the U.S.-brokered Belfast Agreement of April 10, 1998 (the "Good Friday Agreement") would not be reopened."
Finally, the brief notes, the U.S. Senate approved a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty between the United States and the United Kingdom on precisely the explicit understanding that the treaty was "not intended to reopen issues addressed in the Belfast agreement."
Now it gets really good, as the brief turns from underlying matters to an analysis of what it all means. Arguing that the DOJ is obligated to evaluate requests made under legal assistance treaties, rather than just acting on them, and to decide before proceeding whether or not a request from a foreign government is legally proper and politically appropriate, the brief filed for Moloney and McIntyre argues that federal prosecutors failed to do their job before they pursued subpoenas for a political investigation undertaken by a foreign government: "The Attorney General failed in these nondiscretionary duties under the US-UK MLAT. Alternatively, if the Attorney General can demonstrate that he engaged in such an Article 18 consultation or Article 3 consideration, his actions in issuing subpoenas in contravention of the clearly expressed sense of Congress was arbitrary, capricious or an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law."
Strong argument, strong language: the attorney general failed in his duties.
So then see this story from yesterday's Boston Globe, and note what a BC spokesman had to say about the intervention of Moloney and McIntyre: "We obviously share the same goal in the outcome of this matter, but these filings, which we are just now reviewing, may not necessarily reflect the views of Boston College."
Feel the warmth.
In one other new development, the assistant U.S. attorney principally responsible for the BC subpoenas has informed the court that he is leaving the case and quitting his job. Under the terms of the U.S.-U.K MLAT, federal prosecutor Todd Braunstein was the commissioner responsible for promulgating the subpoenas. Until and unless he is replaced, no one is carrying the ball for the government. Braunstein filed his notice with the court the day after the lawyer for Moloney and McIntyre entered the case. I'd ask him why he's leaving, but you already know what he'd say. (If you're wondering what my source is for all of this information, I registered months ago for a Pacer account.)
That's where things stand: new participants, new and far more aggressive argument, and a distinct chill radiating from the BC campus. Whatever comes next will be interesting.
Philip Pilkington, "What is Debt?" Naked Capitalism, 26 August, interviews David Graeber about his new book, Debt: The First 5,000 Years. Peter Duffy, "All Mashed Up," The Book, 31 August, reviews John Reader's Potato: A History of the Propitious Esculent.
Jed Perl, "The Taliban's Least Favorite Buddhist Art, Now on View in New York," TNR, 31 August, reviews "The Buddhist Heritage of Pakistan: Art of Gandhara," an exhibit at the Asia Society in New York City.
Daisy Banks interviews "Helen Castor on Queens and Power," The Browser, 31 August, for her recommendation of essential reading on the subject.
Bernard Porter reviews Tim Jeal's Explorers of the Nile: The Triumph and Tragedy of a Great Victorian Adventure.
I'm many steps behind the latest in the court fight between Boston College and the Department of Justice (which is acting as a proxy for the PSNI), because I've been traveling while all the good stuff has happened. I'll have much more tomorrow, but for now here's a news story summarizing the latest and most interesting development. Many fascinating things going on here, but note especially the tone of BC's response.
Philip Ball, "Did Einstein discover E = mc2?" Physics World, 23 August, takes up an issue you thought was settled.
Ferdinand Mount, "Too Obviously Cleverer," LRB, 8 September, reviews D. R. Thorpe's Supermac: The Life of Harold Macmillan and Peter Catterall's The Macmillan Diaries Vol. II: Prime Minister and After 1957-66.
Richard J. Evans, "Adolph & Eva," National Interest, Sept/Oct, reviews Heike B. Görtemaker's Eva Braun: Life with Hitler, trans. by Damion Searls.
Brooke Allen for the Barnes & Noble Review, 26 August, Anne Kingston for McLeans, 26 August, Francine Rose, "What Wendy Wasserstein Wrought," NYT, 26 August, Jan Stuart for the San Francisco Chronicle, 28 August, and Adam Kirsch, "Darling Wendy," Tablet, 30 August, review Julie Salamon's new biography, Wendy and the Lost Boys: The Uncommon Life of Wendy Wasserstein.
Jeffrey Toobin, "Partners," New Yorker, 29 August, is his important revisionist look at Clarence and Virginia Thomas.
Michael Kazin has an interesting piece in this week’s New Republic, chastising conservatives such as Michele Bachmann, Glenn Beck, and Charles Krauthammer for misappropriating the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. Kazin notes the comments of such figures praising King’s work, but adds that “such paeans still sound quite bizarre coming from a Right that is opposing even the slightest attempt at stimulating the economy to help people who need jobs, good schools, and medical care.” His essay provides a reminder of King’s left-wing views on economic issues during the 1960s.
In fairness to Bachmann, et al., it seems to me plausible to argue that a political figure can praise King’s commitment to political reform and equal rights without necessarily endorsing his economic vision. After all, many members of Congress in the 1960s who supported the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act didn’t endorse all (or even much) of King’s economic agenda.
There is, however, one element of the contemporary conservative movement that pretty clearly is misappropriating King’s legacy. The National Organization of Marriage, an anti-gay marriage group, has recently attracted attention for a policy pledge, endorsed by all the major 2012 GOP presidential candidates, which includes support for a plebiscite in D.C. to ban gay marriage there. Last year in Minnesota, the group started running ads demanding that Minnesotans receive a right to vote on a state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. The preference for plebiscites makes sense for NOM, given that gay marriage opponents skew toward senior citizens and people without college educations, groups represented in proportionally larger numbers in an electorate than in legislatures or the courts.
A NOM radio ad, however, implied that King would endorse such a tactic: “The right to vote, our most important civil right. Martin Luther King said it simply. Yet some politicians in Minnesota want to impose gay marriage without a vote of the people.” (The TV version of the ad showed King, but didn’t quote from him.) NOM’s Brian Brown explained the ad’s rationale: “Just as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for the civil rights of Americans, we echo his words to give people the ballot and let the people vote.
King never had a position on marriage equality, obviously, but it’s hard to argue that he supported using plebiscites to decide the rights of minority groups. During his lifetime, the most significant such effort was California’s Proposition 14, the 1964 referendum that sought to overturn the state’s fair housing law. King not only didn’t suggest that Californians’ “right to vote” on the discriminatory measure was “our most important civil right,” but he argued that approving Proposition 14 would “be one of the most shameful developments in our nation’s history.” King’s stance had little impact: Proposition 14 overwhelmingly passed, and helped sink the re-election campaign of Senator Pierre Salinger, who had vociferously opposed the measure. The Supreme Court invalidated the referendum in 1967, in Reitman v. Mulkey.
So while Kazin might be overly aggressive in suggesting that praise for King’s legacy can’t be reconciled with opposition to King’s economic beliefs, conservatives can fairly be criticized for misappropriating King’s words and work to support the concept of putting minority rights up to a popular vote.
Thanks to 3 Quarks Daily for the tip.
[Cross-posted at Airminded.]
Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.
The speech was given during the Battle of Britain, and 'the Few' are universally taken to be the pilots of Fighter Command, the last line of defence against the Luftwaffe. But, as Alan says, Churchill had relatively little to say about the Battle that day -- he did talk about it, but only as part of a general speech on the war situation. I suggested that if you read the line in context, it actually looks like Churchill is talking about Bomber Command, as he doesn't dwell on Fighter Command at all. Here's a fuller extract from Churchill's speech (emphasis added):
The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of world war by their prowess and by their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few. All hearts go out to the fighter pilots, whose brilliant actions we see with our own eyes day after day, but we must never forget that all the time, night after night, month after month, our bomber squadrons travel far into Germany, find their targets in the darkness by the highest navigational skill, aim their attacks, often under the heaviest fire, often with serious loss, with deliberate, careful discrimination, and inflict shattering blows upon the whole of the technical and war-making structure of the Nazi power. On no part of the Royal Air Force does the weight of the war fall more heavily than on the daylight bombers who will play an invaluable part in the case of invasion and whose unflinching zeal it has been necessary in the meanwhile on numerous occasions to restrain.
We are able to verify the results of bombing military targets in Germany, not only by reports which reach us through many sources, but also, of course, by photography. I have no hesitation in saying that this process of bombing the military industries and communications of Germany and the air bases and storage depots from which we are attacked, which process will continue upon an ever-increasing scale until the end of the war, and may in another year attain dimensions hitherto undreamed of, affords one at least of the most certain, if not the shortest of all the roads to victory. Even if the Nazi legions stood triumphant on the Black Sea, or indeed upon the Caspian, even if Hitler was at the gates of India, it would profit him nothing if at the same time the entire economic and scientific apparatus of German war power lay shattered and pulverised at home.
So he gives his famous line, but then says in effect 'yes, yes, the fighter pilots are great, but let's talk about the bomber boys, they're ones who might win the war for us'. As Churchill himself might have said, wars are not won by defence. At most, I think he meant the 'few' to include all Britain's pilots, but the phrase soon narrowed to mean those flying fighters alone. For example, the 1942 film The First of the Few was about the genesis of the Spitfire.
So how were Churchill's words interpreted as he spoke them? The major newspapers all ran leaders on the speech. One which singled out the phrase in question was the Manchester Guardian (21 August 1940, 4):
The work of the R.A.F., both in defence and in offence, has been beyond all expectations and beyond all praise; in a striking sentence he said that "never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."
So here it is associated with the RAF as a whole, not just one part of it. The Times (21 August 1940, 5) also noted the phrase, in summing up a lengthy paragraph which itself summarises Churchill's comments on Fighter Command, Bomber Command, the Ministry of Aircraft Production and the Empire Air Training Scheme:
our airmen can look forward to attaining numerical parity with their opponents, and so to playing that dominant part in the whole war which their skill and gallantry have deserved. Already they have given us a clear vision of victory, even under the impact of what the PRIME MINISTER called a cataract of disaster. Truly, as he said, "never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."
So here too the fighter pilots are just one element of the Few.
The other newspapers I've looked at don't mention the Few explicitly. The Daily Express (21 August 1940, 5) barely even alludes to the Battle, saying only that 'the fight which this nation and this Empire is making has increased the respect' of Americans for Britain:
Soldiers, sailors, and pilots are at their greatest strength yet. Canada and America are hand in hand. We hold the seven seas. All this the enemy has to beat. All this -- and more. For we strike, strike, strike through our bombers. And Churchill promises that we shall strike harder yet.
The Daily Mirror (21 August 1940, 5) listed 'several points of real encouragement from Mr. Churchill's review', the first among them (and the only one relating to airpower) being:
Our bombing of military targets in Germany (one of the brilliant achievements of the R.A.F.) is certainly having its effect. And Mr. Churchill realises that this may be the surest of all roads to victory.
Air defence is presumably one of the other 'brilliant achievements of the R.A.F.', but it doesn't seem to be worth mentioning for the Mirror.
Complicating this picture is the Yorkshire Post (21 August 1940, 2), which in fact didn't mention the work of Bomber Command at all. Instead it focused on the Battle:
we can fairly claim that in these last dramatic weeks we have at least blunted the edge of that air terror on which Germany's hopes of final victory must largely depend [...] Unless Hitler can soon beat us in the air -- and even now it is we who are beating him -- he never will.
The Glasgow Herald (21 August 1940, 6) split the difference, remarking that
Our Air Force has faced the greatest aerial war machine ever known or imagined, has beaten back its first great assaults with great and disproportionate loss to the enemy, and has harried Germany far more effectively than the Luftwaffe has raided here [...]
So, out of this sample of half a dozen metropolitan and provincial dailies, only one, the Yorkshire Post, gave precedence to Fighter Command when discussing Churchill's speech, and even it didn't relate this to his praise of the Few.
Garry Campion analysed Churchill's speech in The Good Fight: Battle of Britain Propaganda and The Few (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009). He notes differing opinions as to whether the Few were just the fighter pilots or all RAF aircrew, both during the war and after. Richard Overy is on the former side; David Reynolds on the other. Campion himself sides with the usual interpretation (as might be guessed from the title of his book). But I think he is too quick to dismiss the idea that the Few included bomber crews too (78):
On this point it is noteworthy that Bomber Command had yet to strike at Berlin, its first attack occurring five days later on 25/26 August [...] It is hard to see at this early point that Bomber Command's undoubtedly heroic attacks had resulted in clear, tangible outcomes -- also capable of being propagandised -- comparable to that of the fighter squadrons.
But as the above quote from Churchill's speech shows, he did claim that there were 'clear, tangible outcomes' from RAF bomber raids, and he clearly was trying to propagandise them. And, as I have argued, Bomber Command's capabilities and effects were wildly overestimated at this time. Campion's is a Fighter Command view of the Battle of Britain. Perhaps mine is a Bomber Command view.
Image source: Spitfire Site.
At the Huffington Post this weekend, Robert L. Cavnar rearranges large portions of the human past to rebuke extremist "anti-government forces" of the kind that criticize FEMA, an agency we finally realize we need just as an "unprecedented" hurricane barrels toward the East Coast of the... Wait, did that already happen?
Cavnar builds his argument on a foundational narrative of history that sees a long string of (triumphant) dead people stacking each brick of progress on top of the last, building toward a perfected condition that can only be impeded by voting Republican; sometimes we move forward in time, sometimes we pull the wrong lever and move back. Tuesday? Better than Monday, 'cause of it happened later. Unless that asshole Bush is still around.
But the details get a little strange: "Many anti-government forces have successfully staked out territory that asserts that the 'free market' cures all ills, which it doesn't. They declare that the government can't do anything right (except for winning 2 World Wars and going to the Moon in less than 10 years), and that it should be shrunk down to the size that it can be 'drowned in the bathtub.'"
See, government isn't like markets, government produces order and progress. For example? Two world wars in forty years. Suck on that, anti-government loons: if we listened to you people, who the hell would have firebombed Dresden? How then Verdun, you anarchists? Let's see you Tea Party idiots build nice straight trenches like that. Burning gas that sears human lungs and makes the blood come roaring up -- where's your hotshot "free market" now, Friedrich Stupidpants Hayek?
The kind of mind that looks at a century full of mass murder and sees a steady accumulation of rational progress also has other blind spots that seem so obvious you'd think he would eventually sort of notice that he can't see that big missing part right over there. So Cavnar tells us this: "Some politicians, notably extreme conservatives, oppose any government intervention." And then he offers Ron Paul's view of FEMA as evidence: "We should be coordinated but coordinated voluntarily with the states. A state can decide. We don't need somebody in Washington."
Ron Paul doesn't believe in any government intervention -- he just believes in potent and well-organized states that coordinate with other states to mutually and voluntarily develop regional responses to emergencies. If you're upset about, say, Chris Christie or Scott Walker being governors, here's your comfort: they don't actually govern anything. They just run, like, big regional clubs. New Jersey: this week only, add on a family member for half price!
While Cavnar turns a century of bloodshed into a miracle of modern engineering, and turns states into NGOs, he also just frankly and plainly reinvents the more-recent past. We're currently in a struggle over basic principles, he writes, "since the government became a target of political ideologues with the stated goal of dismantling essential government services such as was done to FEMA during the past administration."
Now, okay: I was in Mississippi during Hurricane Katrina, flat on my back under a bunk on a concrete floor, laughing at the guy from B Co. who went outside to try to smoke a cigarette. (He lived.) And the thing I remember about the following days is the unbelievable flood of federal logistics, starting with massive convoys of brand-new SUVs with F-E-M-A roughed out on the sides in masking tape. Truck after truck after truck brought ice, and pay close attention to this: When a local sheriff tried to distribute some to sick people who needed to keep medicine cold, he was arrested and (unsuccessfully) prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office. He didn't follow procedure. The ice for sick people to cool their medication? This dude just gave it to sick people to cool their medication. The travesty of local government, people -- is this what you want?
Versions of this story happened everywhere: doctors who rushed to damaged cities to help, but were turned aside by federal bureaucrats. Fire departments from all over the country that rushed crews to the Gulf Coast, where FEMA told them to stand down, stand down, you haven't even finished the proper inbriefings.
And yet somehow Robert Cavnar concludes that FEMA was dismantled during the Bush administration. If only.
Compare this historical model with the narrative Al Gore farted out of his increasingly gaseous head this week: anyone who questions that global warming is caused by humans is like Bull Connor, and their disbelief has to be confronted the way the forces of progress dealt with those who turned firehoses on other human beings. Wonderfully, perfectly, Gore's interviewer jumps in to say that he's not sure racism can be compared to a discussion of global warming, because global warming involves science, so that's different.
But of course, and I'm repeating myself, racism was deeply established in science, and racist views were respectable views. The Letter from Birmingham Jail was a response to educated clergy, who wanted to know why this Martin Luther King lunatic was acting like a goddamn beatnik and getting himself thrown in jail like a common street hoodlum. (Could it be the communists? Could this King fellow be channeling the Peking Line?) The science vs ignorance dichotomy won't work, here: too many of the scientists were on the wrong side. Nor will the other dichotomies.
History is progress; government is progress; science is progress; centralization of authority is progress, and devolution of authority is regression.
None of these claims work without some form of lying.
Welcome to the August 29, 2011 edition of the military history carnival. It's been three months of solid military history on the Internet, and this carnival is the best of reader-nominated entries. Special thanks to Jonathan Beard, for substantial contributions to this carnival.
Averrones presents "They shot at the skies": soldiers and firearms of 16th century posted at Sellswords, mercenaries and condottieri.
Alan Flower presents The Tsar's Army, an instrument of social mobility? posted at History and the Sock Merchant.
Jonathan Beard presents Excavated Bomb Suggests Early Start for Artillery at Spiegel Online International saying "A pretty good article, well translated. Too bad the line about the Civil War is wrong."
20th & 21st Centuries
David Silbey presents World War II Mystery [of Photo Album] Solved in a Few Hours at Lens.
Jonathan Beard presents New Book Claims Hitler Gave Sex Dolls to Nazi Soldiers at Gbooza saying "weirdness from the Reich."
Craig Swain presents The Naval War in the Falklands, Part 1 | Bring the heat, Bring the Stupid posted at Bring the heat, Bring the Stupid.
Jonathan Beard presents Metal Allies The new face of a faceless global war: drones and the CIA." at Slate.
Thomas Snyder presents Hospital Ship “Op ten Noort” « Of Ships & Surgeons posted at Of Ships & Surgeons, saying, "I'm particularly proud of this one--the story is, I think, compelling, compellingly sad."
Jonathan Beard presents Berlin Shies Away from Refurbishing Historic Warship at Der Spiegel saying "The Germans have been very, very bad about preserving warships ever since 1945. It seems that defeat took all the wind out of their sails."
Jonathan Beard presents Photo Gallery: How the US Military Simulates Iraq and Afghanistan at Flavor Wire.
That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of the military history carnival using our carnival submission form. The next carnival will be December 1. The submission deadline is November 28. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.
Matthew Price reviews Anthony Brandt's The Man Who Ate His Boots: The Tragic History of the Search for the Northwest Passage for The National, 26 August.
Rosemary Hill reviews Fiona MacCarthy's The Last Pre-Raphaelite: Edward Burne-Jones and the Victorian Imagination for the Guardian, 25 August.
Karen Abbott, "‘Mrs. Sherlock Holmes' Takes on the NYPD," Past Imperfect, 23 August, recalls Grace Humiston's legal and detective work in New York City.
Scott McLemee reviews Cameron McWhirter's Red Summer: The Summer of 1919 and the Awakening of Black America for the Barnes & Noble Review, 18 August.
Joseph Epstein, "Kazin's Complaint," Commentary, August, reviews Richard Cook, ed., Alfred Kazin's Journals.
Finally, the Washington Post and Walter Russell Mead point out that the undedicated Martin Luther King memorial in Washington, DC, includes not just one, but two quotations that it misattributes to King. This doubles down on an obligatory tradition of misattribution in civil rights memorials.
In February of 1804, a court of inquiry met in Boston to consider the complaint of a group of field officers in the Massachusetts militia against their commander, Brig. Gen. John Winslow. The complaint was a great damp pile of butthurt, charging Winslow with behavior unbecoming a gentleman and spooling out a list of fourteen specifications that Tina Fey could have worked into Mean Girls pretty effortlessly, if she'd only known about them in time. Article 11 was that, at a brigade dinner, Winslow had identified one particular captain as the best officer in the line, "to the great injury of the feelings of the Gentmn present." The complainants demanded that Winslow be brought before a court martial. Predictably, the court of inquiry appointed to look into the matter yawned itself half to death, and then went to lunch. Curtain falls.
In March, though, Winslow struck back: he filed a complaint against his accusers, charging them with the ungentlemanly defamation of a superior officer; their "groundless and false" complaint, he argued, "has been highly injurious to the harmony and discipline of the Brigade." Let it not be said that nineteenth-century gentlemen didn't have lots of time on their hands.
The record of proceedings from the court martial of Lieut. Col. Robert Gardner and Majors Benjamin Harris, Asa Hatch, and Amasa Stetson contains not a single word of testimony that speaks to the charges against the four officers. Instead, the judge advocate in the case left behind dozens of pages of closely recorded dudgeon and recrimination. (The judge advocate being both the recorder of the proceedings and a participant, he gave himself most of the best lines.)
Speaking for his fellow defendants during Saturday proceedings, Gardner demanded the removal of the judge advocate from the case, since "it was the opinion of many of their friends out of doors" that Capt. Charles Davis had "evinced great partiality" in the same role during the recent court of inquiry that had shrugged off their own complaint. Davis acknowledged that he had looked over Winslow's complaint and offered his opinion about it before Winslow sent it to the governor, but so what? The judge advocate tells us in the record that he "felt far above insinuations of the kind, the gentleman made."
In the courts martial of the time, defendants spoke to the court only through an intermediary, producing written questions and statements that the judge advocate read to the court and bound into the record. Two hundred years later, you can tell how Colonel X was feeling on Tuesday morning by how many times the pen ripped the page of the questions he propounded for the witness, laced in with crumbling twine between two pages in perfect clerical handwriting. But Gardner refused the premise, repeatedly leaping up to harangue the court and refusing to hand written statements to Davis. Again, the record reads like a high school dramedy: Give him the paper and sit down! No, I won't! Give him the paper and sit down! No, I won't! Give him the paper and sit down! No, I won't! GIVE HIM THE PAPER AND SIT DOWN! (Heavy sigh; chair scrapes.)
But finally, the real break would be the moment when Gardner and the majors, finally called to plead to the charges, demanded the right to be represented by a lawyer. The question presented by this demand was hotly argued well into the twentieth century, but the courts martial of the time had a standard answer: any gentleman could sit next to the gentlemen defendants and discreetly advise them, but the court "would not admit and recognize counsel to act openly." Military officers were expected to manage their own cause, yadda yadda manly republican firmness. Gardner warned the court that he and his fellow defendants were considering whether to object to the entire trial. The record is droll: "It was observed the defendants might do as they pleased."
Exhausted by a day of bickering, the court adjourned until Monday morning. Since the courtroom they were using on Saturday would be occupied by the U.S. District Court on Monday, the court martial decided to meet in the chamber of the House of Representatives. Remember that solution the next time your faculty meeting is bumped from the department conference room.
On Monday, surely noticing the setting, Gardner went right back to it. Interrupting Davis as he tried to call the first witness, Gardner demanded the removal of a member of the court, a fellow lieutenant colonel, on the grounds that the other man had already discussed the case with him privately before the trial and told him he had committed a serious military offense. The court, bless their hearts, didn't see the point. They directed the judge advocate to keep going, and suggested that Gardner stop interrupting for no good reason. You can more or less see where all this is headed.
Finally, Gardner and the other defendants "requested liberty to retire a short time." The court, and what a shame it is that eye-rolling and heavy sighs weren't noted in trial records, suggested that they hurry it up, already. The defendants marched back onto the House floor a short time later with a handwritten statement that they finally handed to the judge advocate without first putting on a show. Informing the court that they had urgently sent word to the governor that his intervention was needed to resolve the unfolding travesty of their court martial, Gardner and the majors conceded that they had not received a reply. There was, they knew, only one path left to them: "We are constrained to protest against the proceedings of the court, and to decline taking any further part in the trial."
Cue eruption. The president of the court martial, a major general, informed the four defendants that they had made a grossly improper statement that was wrong in every premise: "It is easy to demonstrate were it proper to go into an argument with you, that the ground you have taken is untenable, but I forbear." He was equally stern, and equally vague, about the consequences. "Gentlemen," he warned, "you will consider the consequences of the rash step you are about to take, it is a step, which you cannot retrace. I must admonish you against it, and do now declare to you, that if you withdraw from the court, you do it at your utmost peril." (The entire nineteenth century: too many fucking commas.)
With that, the court ordered the judge advocate to read aloud the section of the militia law that made militia officers amenable to courts martial. "The defendants then left the court while the judge advocate was reading the 35th section of the militia Law." The court adjourned without another recorded word of discussion, as if the record itself was momentarily struck dumb. One suspects that they didn't decide to adjourn using hand gestures.
The next morning, the court resumed its trial, and I'm sad to say that I'll surely never discover what conversations went on that evening: what places, what parties, what words, what tone and gestures. Each member of the court was called in turn, and each answered. Then the defendants, "tho' solemnly called," did not. Having heard no testimony to the charges, but bearing a written statement from the defendants protesting against the fact that they were being tried over the contents of a complaint that they acknowledged having written, the court unanimously convicted all four officers of "unofficerlike conduct," sentencing them to be stripped of their ranks. The majors were barred from returning to military service for ten years; Gardner was barred from recovering the status of a military officer for life.
Hurricane permitting, more tomorrow.
Pure Medievalry will host Carnivalesque LXXVII, an ancient/medieval edition of the festival, on 28 August. Use the form to nominate the best in ancient and medieval history blogging since 19 June.
David Silbey hosts the next Military History Carnival here at Cliopatria on 29 August. Use the form to nominate the best in military history blogging since late May.
Jacob Heilbrunn, "Introducing Mr. Trevor-Roper," National Interest, 24 August, reviews Adam Sisman's Hugh Trevor-Roper: The Biography. Euan Ferguson interviews "Peter Ackroyd: 'I just want to tell a story'," Guardian, 25 August, about his six volume history of London.
Steve Donoghue, "Florence & Baghdad: Renaissance men embraced dual perspectives," The National, 26 August, reviews Hans Belting's Florence & Baghdad: Renaissance Art and Arab Science.
Owen James Burke, "The Havoc Hurricanes Wreak On Yankee Cities: A Visual History," Atlantic, 26 August, recalls earlier devastation.
Andrew H. Knoll, "Back to the Red Planet," TLS, 24 August, reviews Robert Crossley's Imagining Mars: A Literary History and K. Maria D. Lane's Geographies of Mars: Seeing and knowing the Red Planet.
Working in a field long dominated by the 30-year rule (in which key documents don’t become available in the Foreign Relations of the United States series until 30, or often more, years after the fact), it’s remarkable to see how the internet has increased access to more recent foreign policy documents.
On some occasions, it’s through established sites, such as the National Security Archive or the Cold War International History Project. But in other instances, it’s more haphazard, as in two documents released in the past few days regarding Congress and U.S. foreign policy toward Libya.
The first, which has received some attention, came from WikiLeaks, and involved a 2009 meeting between the Qaddafi regime and Senators John McCain, Joe Lieberman, and Lindsay Graham. Lieberman mused about how “we never would have guessed ten years ago that we would be sitting in Tripoli, being welcomed by a son of Muammar al-Qadhafi,” while McCain promised to push for increased U.S. arms shipments to Libya. The latter revelation proved embarrassing to McCain given his criticism (and then churlish acknowledgement) of Pres. Obama’s Libya policy.
The second document was referenced a few hours ago in the Guardian live-blog of Libyan events. The paper’s reporter on the ground, Luke Harding, has been going through foreign policy documents recovered from the Qaddafi compound. Harding discovered a strange Libyan effort to broker a Libyan-U.S. cease-fire . . . by working through Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich. (It would be hard to imagine a less influential member of Congress in spring 2011.) The Libyans wanted Kucinich to come to the country as part of an all-expenses paid “peace mission,” but the congressman demurred, citing concerns for his personal safety.
Then, in yet another bizarre misreading of Congress, a Libyan filmmaker named Sufyan Omeish informed the regime, in a “highly important and strictly confidential” document,” that Senate support for Obama’s policy was at such an extent to make likely “a future ground invasion in either late September or October of this year.” This, of course, was the same Congress that featured members of both parties, in both houses, complaining that Obama had committed U.S. air forces to battle without congressional authorization. It was absurd to even consider a U.S. ground invasion ever was possible. Omeish nonetheless informed Libyan officials that “a high-profile US Congressman” would lead the fight against a U.S. invasion.
In the past decade, diplomatic history has increasingly redefined itself as “international history”—for practical reasons perhaps a good idea, since doing so extracts the field from U.S. history, and the preference of hiring committees for U.S. specialists in race, class, and gender. But the McCain and Kucinich documents provide a reminder that, even if the profession would like to believe otherwise, it’s hard to divorce domestic politics and Congress from an analysis of U.S. foreign policy.
Caroline O'Donovan, "Back to Utopia," The Book, 24 August, reviews Brook Wilensky-Lanford's Paradise Lust: Searching for the Garden of Eden.
Dava Sobel, "The World's Waistband," Literary Review, August, reviews Larrie D Ferreiro's Measure of the Earth: The Enlightenment Expedition that Reshaped Our World.
Jan Morris, "In Potemkin's Steps," Literary Review, August, reviews Charles King's Odessa: Genius and Death in a City of Dreams.
Matthew Lasar, "Mad about metered billing? They were in 1886, too," ars technica, ca 15 August, looks at the early history of American telecommunications.
James Polchin, "Tiny Dancer: What did Toulouse-Lautrec see in Jane Avril's face?" Smart Set, 17 August, reviews "Toulouse-Lautrec and Jane Avril: Beyond the Moulin Rouge," an exhibit at London's Courtauld Gallery.
Rodric Braithwaite, "Dog Days of the Soviet Union," Open Democracy -- Russia, 18-22 August, is the diary of the British ambassador to the Soviet Union during the crisis leading to its collapse: the coup, 18 August; the plot thickens, 19 August; and the plot fails, 22 August. Braitwaite is the recent author of Afghansty: The Russians in Afghanistan, 1979-89.
A brief and inelegant update: Boston College received new federal subpoenas, earlier this month, for oral history materials relating to the Troubles in Northern Ireland. The August 2 subpoenas, filed under seal on behalf of the Police Service of Northern Ireland and revealed a few days ago by BC's public filing of a motion to quash, demand "any and all interviews containing information about the abduction and death of Mrs. Jean McConville" (see this post for background). McConville's murder has been in the background of the DOJ's efforts all along; this new set of subpoenas makes explicit an investigative effort that was both unstated and pretty clear.
More remarkably, these new subpoenas threaten to expose oral history sources that have so far been protected. While the original subpoenas served on BC in May demanded interview materials from two people already publicly known to have spoken to researchers, the new subpoenas would expose up to two dozen other interviewees whose identities have never been revealed.
The new subpoenas also attempt to turn Boston College into an investigative agency, demanding that BC examine every Belfast Project interview in its possession so it can hand over all of the information it may have in its archives regarding McConville's death. As BC's lawyer writes in his motion to quash, "The second subpoenas would require the university to perform a detailed analysis of all the Belfast Project interview materials to ascertain if they contain information 'about the abduction or death of Mrs. Jean McConville.' The volume of work required to undertake that analysis, and to make determinations about what might constitute such information, would impose a substantial burden on Boston College."
As long as the PSNI is taking shortcuts, they should just ask BC to go ahead and arrest McConville's killers for them. Of course, this assumes that the PSNI actually wants to catch McConville's killers, so never mind.
In related news, this morning's Boston Globe has an op-ed piece from Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre, respectively the director of BC's Belfast Project and its lead researcher on the IRA.
I'm traveling -- more later.